By Paul Goble
Reports Russian firms are using “legally defenseless and poorly paid [Central Asian] Gastarbeiters” to build atomic energy plants in the Russian Federation are raising concerns that this will mean a lowering in the quality of such construction projects and “an increase in the threat of terrorist acts,” according to a environmental watchdog organization.
Writing for the Russian office of the Bellona organization, Andrey Ozharovsky notes that there have been such reports on various occasions over the last six months, despite the denials of officials and efforts by construction bodies to prevent outside investigators from finding the truth of the matter. (www.bellona.ru/articles_ru/articles_2011/Rafshan).
Russian prosecutors have established, Ozharovsky reports, that sanitary conditions at the Second Leningrad atomic power plant near St. Petersburg “do not correspond to sanitary norms,” making it clear” that this is not a highly qualified worker aristocracy but legally defenseless Gasarbeiters” whose low wages are helping Rosatom to earn “billions.”
Some independent Russian television shows last weekend picked up on this issue, reporting that at least of the workers being used in such construction projects are not only Gastarbeiters but “illegals,” a pattern that raises even more questions about “anti-terrorist security” at these key sites (sensation.ntv.ru/archive.jsp?iid=82060).
NTV reported that “sometimes illegal Gastarbeiters are building super-secret objects. Here there is the construction of a new block of an atomic power plant. In order to save money, the prosecutor asserts, the leadership of the plant could think of nothing better than to employ migrants who are illegals.”
“The [television] pictures accompanying this information allow one to establish that the problem is talking about the construction of the Leningrad Atomic Power Station—2 near St. Petersburg. In the field of the video camera are cars with Petersburg license plates and a bus with the sign ‘LAPS-2.’”
Moreover, the prosecutor told NTV that the workers are being poorly fed, a statement that raises the disturbing possibility that they may be angry enough either to do bad work or to be susceptible to recruitment by terrorist groups. And their lack of skills means mistakes of one kind of another are likely, something managers cannot provide any guarantee against.
The NTV journalists asked whether “among the illegal workers there might be concealed a terrorist” – either someone who would sabotage the plant by intentionally doing bad work or by stealing some of the plant’s nuclear fuel in order to make a dirty bomb that could be used against the population.
One would like to believe, Ozharovsky says, that atomic power plants are better protected and workers better selected than appears to be the case. Officials have said that reports about the employment of illegals at the atomic power plant construction site are not true, but as the Bellona journalist points out, their statements are non-denial denials.
Vasily Kalyuzhny, the first deputy director of the construction project organization, told the Regnum news agency that “the specific information” about illegals “does not correspond to reality,” a phrase “elegantly constructed” so that he “does not assert that there are no illegals” there but rather that the number 1300 is not true (www.regnum.ru/news/1366373.html).
But in fact, “no one has asserted this,” Ozharovsky points out, something that makes Kalyuzhny’s comment less meaningful than one would like.
The Bellona journalist concludes by recalling that “the first atomic construction projects in our country were carried out by the forces of prisoners of the GULAG. [These] times have returned; but, as the dialect teaches at a different stage of development. Today, the atomic agency uses the work of legally defenseless and frightened [illegal] workers.”